Dear Readers, After a year with Beliefnet, I’ve decided to move to my own domain for my blogging. It’s been a fine year — some things worked, other things didn’t. But in the end, I’ll be a better blogger on my own. My thanks to the Bnet editorial staff; they’ve been very supportive. Please change […]
There have been some real gems among the hundreds and hundreds of comments left on this blog in the past couple weeks. Among those that bear repeating is this one from Edward Green:
To begin to understand the Bible’s views (and they are various) on sexuality you need to get into the culture.
Sex was something that came with marriage. For women between the
ages of 14 and 18. For men probably a little later. Scripture supports
what we see in society and studies of sexual dysfunction show, that
human beings are designed to be sexually active from late teenage years
When I read the Song of Solomon I find an erotic poem describing
many different diverse acts of love, most of which happen before the
couple are married. Once you key into the imagery there is not much
that is not covered. Love is awakened? Perhaps she fell pregnant. It is
almost implicit. And so they marry.
Pre-marital sex in Scripture means pre-adult sex. It also means the
risks of pregnancy outside of the core economic and family unit. The
Gospels are clear that Mary & Joseph did not marry for love after
all (although I am sure they grew to love each other) and they story
demonstrates the stigma of pre-marital sex. But Joseph’s response was
one of grace (to put her away not shame her), and grace doubled (to
marry Mary). And yes I do hold to the Creedal statements on the Virgin
Birth. But is is the appearance of the situation that should guide our
So the ‘No Sex Before Marriage’ argument doesn’t wash. The ‘Sex is
part of the journey of two people towards life long covenant loving
commitment’ argument does. Contraception offers us more sexual freedom,
but not the freedom to be irresponsible, recreational or promiscuous.
Remember plenty of STI’s are passed on by skin contact, that is by
‘fooling around’. The ideal is one intimate sexual partner for life.
So what of same sex relationships in Scripture? King David, despite
his many wives and concubines turned down the warming of a young girl
on his death bed. The text almost gives us a reason why. His love for
Jonathan exceeded his love for any woman. We are not asking what they
got up to in private here (although the whole exchanging of armour
story makes it pretty clear to me) as that is a secondary issue. Ruth
and Naomi is more complicated. Ruth needed a husband, and is guided in
seducing Boaz by Naomi. Uncovering ‘feet’ on the threshing floor is not
about a pedicure, feet being a handy Hebrew euphemism for genitals.
Gosh aren’t biblical sexual ethics interesting?
Jesus deals directly with a same sex relationship. The Centurion and
his servant who is ‘very dear to him’. Again what they did together in
private is irrelevant, as Gerd Theissen points out in the ‘Shadow of
the Galilean’ observers may well have seen the healing as a blessing of
a same sex relationship even if the relationship was not ‘active’.
The Gospels do dead with serious sexual sin. The abuse of Salome
(probably under-age and brought to dance for Herod’s courts
titillation). The Samaritan woman’s multiple partners. The hypocrisy of
judging others when we have all committed adultery in our hearts.
So we have two theological streams.
Firstly Sex should be part of the journey towards lifelong
commitment. I do believe that a sexual relationship that does not lead
to such a covenant relationship and ends requires repentance. Just as
we should all repent of adultery of the heart. See I do believe in
original sin and there are plenty of sins we commit that we have little
Secondly there are scriptural examples of covenent loving
relationships between same sex individuals. Although we cannot make
clear conclusions about any physical aspect of those relationships.
Of those ‘6 texts’ the Hebrew ones are the weakest. The shellfish texts shall we say. But Paul’s thinking does raise questions.
It depends on how we read Paul.
If we see Paul as conservative then we are left with the position
held by many evangelical same sex couples I know. They enjoy celibate
covenant loving relationships.
If we see Paul as a liberal radical mystic we may begin to ask
questions about how people born same sex orientated can be fully
grafted in to the covenant of grace as those of us born gentiles are.
Sexual intimacy of some sort is part of this.
As a ‘pastor’ this is how I approach the issue. My ultimate personal
conclusion is that I have no issue with a same sex couple in an unique
covenant relationship expressing that relationship in a physical way.
That could be hugs, it could be kisses, it could be more. I don’t tell
wedding couples what they should do or not do in private in great
detail. The same for same sex couples. I will give them resources to
work with but the degree of celibacy or activity is something they need
to ultimately reconcile for themselves.
And when I do work with folks who are of whatever orientation and
choose to be promiscuous or polyamourous I remember that my eyes still
wander in summer, that I don’t do all I can to combat the sexualisation
of the under-aged, and that I have failed relationships behind me.
Because in my eyes a failed relationship with out full sexual intimacy
(kissing girls/boys at bible camp when you were 17 still counts folks)
still falls short of God’s ideal for us.